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Thread: Commission rates for Fantasy Maps in books... HELP!!!

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  1. #1

    Default Commission rates for Fantasy Maps in books... HELP!!!


    I'm new to the guild although I've enjoyed looking at maps for a long time... especially ones placed at the beginning of fantasy books. I always feel a little disappointed when I open a new book and there's no map in the front. I've drawn maps out longhand before, but only recently have I taken to editing them digitally and I'm enjoying the results.

    Today an author contacted me asking if he could commission me to do a map for his YA Fantasy book which will be published through AMG in the summer. I've had some contact with this author before and I was even able to meet him once. The problem is, I know nothing about commission rates and/or royalties for illustrations/maps. Should I even ask for royalties, or is that only when dealing with publishers? Does anyone else know what I should ask for? Would anyone be willing to give me some advice?

    He wants a map similar in style to the one I created for my WIP. Here's the link to that map:
    Last edited by Star-dreamer; 05-11-2011 at 07:23 PM.

  2. #2
    Professional Artist Djekspek's Avatar
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    Aug 2009


    hi, rates and royalties is always hard...

    I almost never ask for royalties, as I like to do something and get it finished without having to check on royalties afterwards (but if you think the book is going to be a bestseller, it may be another story .

    As for rates, it all depends on how much time (size, style, color?) you'll need and what you think is a decent payment. You can also check the mapmaking-request forum thread history to see what others proposed as a budget for maps...

    And, of course, it also depends on what the publisher wants to pay for it. You can propose the rate you think is decent, or if you're unsure, you can ask what his/her budget is. If it's too low for you, you can work out something with royalties if you want the job.

    Also you can check what usage-rights he/she want, if it's full copyright it can be more expensive then when it's (exclusive) usage-rights for the book...

    ... anyway, just my thoughts on this.... cheers, DJ
    My portfolio site ( | My work on deviantART | Fantasy maps on Google+
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  3. #3


    If I were you, I'd not think about it as what price the image should be. When I take on a new commission, I think about it like this: how long will this take me and how much is my time worth? Simply multiply a reasonably hourly rate by how long you anticipate it taking.

    If you're an amateur, $15 an hour might be reasonable. Graphic design professionals might charge hundreds of dollars for an hour's work (though the difference might not be as huge as it seems since they probably work much faster and have more time saving tricks in their toolbox). Anyway, when you do it this way you don't need to feel bad about whether they turn you down or not. If they aren't willing to pay what your time is actually worth, then that is okay.

  4. #4
    Guild Expert Ramah's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
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    Jeez, 15$ an hour? I'd be lucky if mine worked out at 15 cents an hour. Man... I'm so slow.
    Royal: I'm very sorry for your loss, your mother was a terribly attractive woman.

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  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Ramah View Post
    Jeez, 15$ an hour? I'd be lucky if mine worked out at 15 cents an hour. Man... I'm so slow.
    Ramah, your maps are amazing. O_o Like... so very, very possessional! I'm just startin'.

    *Looks at maps again* Crap, those are good! How do you DO that? *gawks*

  6. #6


    But the love and care you put in really shows! Besides, you're more like one of those $100 dollars an hour artists, Ramah.

  7. #7


    Yeah, though I do commissions roughly for $20 per hour, I estimate the cost based on size, detail and the kind of map that needs creating. World maps, continent/regional maps, urban/town maps and encounter scale maps are all different kinds of animals. Some maps like world maps and urban maps I know will take me much longer than other maps, so the price is steeper for that. In the end, as stated above, its speed at creating the maps that make a higher charge per hour feasible. I've never made more than $150 for a map, usually a third of that is closer to the norm. I have given bulk map deals where the client was seeking 8 or 10 maps, so I might cut 30% off my regular single maps fee to accomodate earning a larger fee in total for the difference.

    Some maps, many photorealistic encounter scale maps I can create in an hour or less, whereas a city map might take me 8 or more. But, of course, I am a very fast cartographer - as anyone here can tell you.

    One thing though, early on when I was 'slower' ( I was never slow), I guesstimated on what my time to create would be if I were faster, so in the beginning I made less per hour because I took longer to do the work, but I didn't charge that difference to the client. What I thought should take me 4 hour to do, might have taken me 8, but I only charged for 4 hours. Now I am almost right on in my quotes for time, as I have a good idea looking at any map, how many hours it takes me.

    Just to comment on Djekspek's point, as a cartographer I only charge a fee to be paid upon completion of work, not based on some ficticious royalty based on future sales which may never come. RPG pubications aren't guaranteed money makers, and if paid a small royalty, it may be a year or more before you ever earn what a straight paid commission will get you instead. Royalties are for writers, not cartographers - I would never accept a royalty for cartography.

    In a way, my publications that I am involved in Kaidan, etc. is my way of breaking out of being strictly a commission paid cartographer, as I have aspirations for more involvement in RPG games than just maps. Although my income from maps are now relegated to sales performance, and not immediate commission payment - because I am a publisher, the income earned more than makes up for the difference of getting paid faster through commission work.

    Just some thoughts..

    Last edited by Gamerprinter; 05-12-2011 at 02:48 PM.
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  8. #8
    Guild Adept Facebook Connected RjBeals's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamerprinter View Post
    ... I've never made more than $150 for a map, usually a third of that is closer to the norm.
    Just reading through this - man, someones getting a deal!

  9. #9
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    having just sold two maps for a children's book, I did the maps, and sold the rights to the author. In this case, it was easier than trying to assume what royalties may or may not come about in the future.
    Daniel the Neon Knight: Campaign Cartographer User

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  10. #10


    I would think it was a great rarity for a cartographer to receive a royalty. Even cover artists usually don't get that, although I understand that it is not uncommon to put a stipulation in the contract that the art can only be used for a specific edition of the book.

    Look out for the phrase "work for hire" in contracts. That phrase means that copyright belongs wholly to the client, and you have no rights to your work. They can continue using it forever without compensating you at all, and you cannot profit from it in any other way (such as publishing an art book of your own). I won't say never to sign a work for hire contract, but if you do make sure you're handsomely compensated for selling your rights.
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